To mitigate drought and drought-like situation and scarcity, Union Rural Development Minister Gadkari has ordered that 50% of all works taken up by line agencies at district level should be for water conservation works like check dam construction, de-silting of traditional water bodies, minor irrigation tanks and canals. The decision has been taken in response to widespread criticism by Members of Parliament and people’s representatives at the local level that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has become a source of corruption and that no productive assets are being created through the rural job scheme.
The minister clarified through a press note that as these works require combination of wage labour and machinery, the percentage of skilled component has been increased up to 49%. Increase in the skilled percentage from 40% to 49% is enabling provision which empowers States, if they so wish to do part of work of check dams, minor irrigation tanks with machinery, while doing balance 51% on muster payment to labour.
The minister added that if States wish to retain the skilled proportion to 40%, they are free to do so. This change was widely welcomed by MPs and expert water shed NGO activists like Rajendra Singh and Popat Rao Pawar. They said that this change will enable MGNREGA to put in place Ridge to Valley visible water harvesting structures and help to mitigate drought and water scarcity.
The minister has also directed the Rural Development Ministry that all payments and fund transfer to States should be made on e-payment platform and on a just in time basis so that wage payment are not delayed beyond one week in any case.